The Path of Submission and the renewal of the sacred balance: An Islamic perspective

Based on an interview with Ahmed Motiar

April 2004

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"Islam" means "peace." From a Muslim perspective, peace comes from submission to the will of God. Indeed, the word "Muslim" means "one who submits."

We understand the whole of creation—the entire cosmos—to be Muslim insofar as all things submit to the will of God. A tree, by its very nature, is an excellent Muslim; it submits completely and without deviation to the will of God. In the fall it sheds its leaves, in the winter it goes dormant, in the spring it blooms and in the summer it bears fruit.

Everything on Earth submits to the will of God. All creatures teach us what it is to be Muslim. Only humans have the choice of submitting to the will of God or not. This option of choice elevates human beings-but it also means that we alone can disrupt the sacred balance.

"I look at the camel droppings, and this points to the existence of the camel. I see footprints in the sand, and I know that a traveller has passed by. Then, I look at the heavens with its stars, and the Earth with its mountains and valleys, and the sea with its waves. Do they not all point to the Maker, the powerful, the all-knowing, wise and caring God?"

Sufi (Islamic mystic) story of a desert dweller

Prophet Mohammed taught that, "All creation is God's family as its sustenance is from God. Therefore the most beloved to God is one who does good to God's family." Humanity is only to use the Earth within the limits prescribed by our own needs. The moment we abuse it, we fail to be good submitters—we fail to be good Muslims.

The most sacred phrase of Islam, "La ilaha illa Allah," could be translated as, "There is no reality outside of the One." The Qu'ran intimates that we can see God through God's manifestations. It acknowledges the presence of God within all creation as God is in me. If I hurt you, or harm a tree, or neglect a plant, or abuse the Earth, I am hurting the same God that is present in me.

We choose to be greedy instead of generous. We choose personal riches over generosity. Mohammed taught, "Riches are not from an abundance of worldly goods, but rather from a contented mind." Without a contented mind, we become avaricious. The avaricious person is poor even though they own the world because they can never be content with what they have.

With love, we see all things as beautiful. Everything has value, must be respected and honoured. Living this way actually increases our own joy and happiness-our inner contentment.

The Muslim's spiritual practices help to maintain a constant awareness of the sacred balance. We pray five times a day, giving thanks for our food and shelter, and reflecting on what we have done and what we are doing. Constant communication with the Divine is embedded into the very fabric of our lives.

In this communication, we are also reconnected to the universe. We know that the trees and animals are in constant worship. The leaves of the trees are in the position of bowing, as are the heads of the animals. When we pray, we bow and prostrate ourselves, identifying with all the trees, plants and crawling creatures of the Earth, imitating their respectful position. It is a position of absolute humility. Our prayer postures not only remind us of our responsibility to all creation, but that we are dependent on creation for our sustenance.

In Islam, the highest form of righteousness is to strive to eliminate injustice and oppression—not only to humans, but also to other creatures and the planet. Renewing the sacred balance, then, is an integral part of achieving the peace that comes from being true submitters to the will of God.

Ahmed Motiar is a Muslim born in South African who does not subscribe to any particular subdivision of Islam. He attends the Al Noor Centre in Toronto where women and men worship side by side.

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